Misogyny, Sexism, and Sex Abuse: Lessons from Machiavelli and Plato

From the White House to town square, men try to dominate without moral restraint

Fresno Bee, December 10, 2017

Sexual misconduct was not invented by the current generation. Before Al Franken and Matt Lauer there was Bill Cosby. In Greek myths the gods often raped young women. Plato wrote a book about the ethics of sex and love, called “The Symposium.”

Men have always desired the godlike power to take what they want with impunity. Male dominance ignores moral restraint. It wants power, pleasure and glory.

One spokesman of misogyny is Machiavelli. In an infamously sexist passage in “The Prince,” Machiavelli says that fortune is a woman. If you want to win fortune, you need to beat and abuse her, like you would batter a woman you want to control. Machiavelli teaches that glory comes to those who are audacious and violent.

The Machiavellian man brags about his prowess. He even boasts about what he has not done, manipulating truth in order to manufacture status. The Machiavellian also manipulates people. He grabs and gropes, swaggers and swears. When accused of misdeeds, he lies and dissembles.

We see numerous examples across the country of men getting caught with their pants down. Some have apologized. Others have resigned or been fired. But the hard-boiled Machiavellians continue to deny and denounce.

The most egregious examples come from the Oval Office. Recall Bill Clinton’s famous false denial, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” Other men would have withdrawn in shame. But not Clinton, who shrugged off impeachment.

WE SEE NUMEROUS EXAMPLES ACROSS THE COUNTRY OF
MEN GETTING CAUGHT WITH THEIR PANTS DOWN.

Our current Machiavellian-in-chief bragged on tape about grabbing women’s crotches. President Trump has recently suggested that the voice on the tape was not really him, despite the protestations of his accomplice, Billy Bush.

For a Machiavellian, there is no fact that can’t be massaged to serve his purposes. The Machiavellian never flinches. He trades punch for punch. He mocks and belittles his enemies. He traffics in false and inflammatory material. He accuses others of stupidity, fakery and immorality. If he apologizes, his words are insincere. When he makes promises, he offers flattery without substance.

Unfortunately, the Machiavellian strategy pays off. It often works to be a jerk. It often seems that the more shameless one’s deceits, the more glory one attains.

Perhaps the tide is turning on this. But progress will be slow. This problem has been with us for thousands of years.

Plato understood that sex and politics were often at odds with morality. Good men are often destroyed by evil liars. And shameless gropers often keep what they grab.

The Platonic man does not fit well in the world of male dominance. He is reflective and retiring, modest and private. He does not boast. He is not willing to sacrifice his integrity to achieve victory. He is conscious of his own failures. His primary concerns are truth, justice and virtue.

LET’S TEACH OUR SONS TO BE
BETTER MEN THAN THE MACHIAVELLIANS CURRENTLY ON DISPLAY.

The Platonic man sees no value in taking what is not freely given. He values honesty, friendship and love. He won’t pander. He won’t lie or spread false rumors. He thinks that glory without goodness is not worth the price.

The Platonic man does not view sex and power as ends in themselves to be obtained by any means necessary. Indeed, Plato suggested that lust for sex and power often lead us astray. He taught that sex without restraint is rapacious and that power without justice is tyranny.

The Platonic ideal is constantly at war with the Machiavellian urge. Education and constant effort are needed to develop men of character, who are caring, truthful, just and wise. Young men must be taught to keep their pants zipped.

While we might forgive the immature mischief of an adolescent, we cannot ignore the immoral machinations of mature men. The worst aspect of the Machiavellian man is that he makes groping and glory-seeking a way of life. He models depravity and makes it appear to be good. The tragic fact of political life is that so many Machiavellians have so much power.

The solution is moral education and the empowerment of women. Listen to women’s complaints. And condemn male dominance and misogyny. The point is easy to make today as the rogue’s gallery of gropers continues to grow. Let’s teach our sons to be better men than the Machiavellians currently on display.

http://www.fresnobee.com/news/local/article188839694.html

Masculinity, Sex, and Shame

Trump scandal demonstrates men need to grow up

Fresno Bee, October 15, 2016

 

We’ve been through this before with Bill Clinton, Bill Cosby, Anthony Weiner, Roger Ailes and others. Is anyone surprised that Donald Trump is joining the bi-partisan rogue’s gallery of creeps and philanderers?

This is a culture of ubiquitous pornography. Erectile dysfunction commercials flood the airwaves. Date rape is a problem on college campuses.

The dots are easy to connect, and the solution is clear: Men need to grow up and behave themselves.

Mature men build sincere and lasting relationships with women. Moral men don’t brag about sexual misbehavior, cheat on their wives or grab women’s crotches. Moral men have a sense of decorum. They understand the importance of promising fidelity. They know how to control themselves. And they don’t enable other men to do shameful things.

When Donald Trump bragged about grabbing women’s genitals, Billy Bush egged him on. Howard Stern is another enabler. On Stern’s program, Trump bragged about sexual stuff, including walking in on nude women at beauty pageants he ran. Trump’s defenders imply that this is normal “locker room talk” and boys-being-boys behavior.

Maybe it is normal in the locker room at the Playboy mansion. But even then, so what? Bad deeds are not excusable simply because a lot of jerks do it. And in the real world, young men don’t get a free pass on groping girls or gawking at nude beauty queens.

Moral men outgrow naughty sex talk. Mature adults don’t brag about their sexual lives. Sex is fun. But it is a private pleasure of shared intimacy. Adults keep these things to themselves.

It is shameful to brag about something that should remain private. People should feel ashamed to do private things in public. That missing sense of decorum is part of what is troubling about Bill Clinton’s Oval Office escapades and Anthony Weiner’s shameless selfies.

Aristotle suggested that the best people would do nothing to be ashamed of. But since no one is perfect, the next best thing is to feel shame when you do something shameful. The worst possibility is to lack a sense of shame.

ARISTOTLE SUGGESTED THAT THE BEST PEOPLE WOULD DO NOTHING TO BE ASHAMED OF.
BUT SINCE NO ONE IS PERFECT, THE NEXT BEST THING IS TO FEEL SHAME WHEN YOU DO SOMETHING SHAMEFUL. THE WORST POSSIBILITY IS TO LACK A SENSE OF SHAME.

Without shame there is no room for remorse, regret or moral growth. Shameless people don’t feel guilty. They view fidelity and other moral constraints as external impositions. Rather than holding themselves accountable, the shameless blame others when they get caught.

Sometimes shame can be pathological. Some prudish people cannot enjoy sex or the other pleasures of the body. The sexual liberation movement of the Playboy generation broke free of pathological shame. Hurray for birth control, female orgasms and healthy sexuality. But the pendulum has swung too far toward shamelessness.

Like shame, privacy is another value that has been warped by a pornographic culture in which sex is constantly on display. Like shame, privacy can be excessive. Sometimes privacy can be used to hide terrible things. Absurd claims about privacy in the family were once used to shield investigations into domestic abuse.

But a proper sense of privacy is an important moral achievement. The ability to control your body until you find a private place to fulfill its needs is the first step in human development. Privacy provides a refuge in which spiritual development occurs. Privacy allows us the freedom to explore ideas and create intimate relationships.

Our capacity for reflection, choice and control is the source of human liberty, rationality and moral development. Animals excrete and copulate without shame in public. Human beings control our animal urges and do these things in private. Our sense of shame and our sense of privacy provide the key to human dignity.

Shameless behavior and public lewdness expose a significant character flaw. Shameless philanderers lack self-control. They lie, cheat and manipulate. It is difficult to trust a man who can’t keep his pants or his mouth zipped.

At a recent lecture at Fresno State, historian Doris Kearns Goodwin pointed out that past presidents had sexual affairs. Back then, the media respected their privacy. Those were the bad old days, when privacy also protected men who beat their wives.

It is better that misogyny and infidelity are out of the closet. But it would be even better if men respected women, politicians kept their pants on, and everyone kept their hands to themselves.

Read more here: http://www.fresnobee.com/living/liv-columns-blogs/andrew-fiala/article108256852.html#storylink=cpy